Masks May Not Prevent Impacts of Smoke
Prince George, B.C. – The paper surgical masks available at any drug store, won’t do a thing to protect you from the small particles in wildfire smoke.
Because the wildfire smoke is impacting nearly all regions of the Province, the Ministry of Health and Emergency Management BC are urging those who have evacuated their homes due to smoky conditions to return home, and offer some advice on how to reduce the amount of smoke being inhaled.
Deputy Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry says while there are certain types of respirators that are recommended for use by those who have to be outdoors, those same respirators are not recommended in general for most people and should never be used indoors “Respirators add to the work of breathing and can make your condition worse.”
As for those paper or surgical masks? “Those ones are not of any use, ” says Dr. Henry “They really will not protect your lungs from wildfire smoke, they may help with some of the larger particles and some of the ash in areas that are closer to the fires, but they are not going to protect your lungs from the health effects of breathing smoky air.”
She says N-95 respirators will help block the small particles “But they also carry with them a risk, they can make it very difficult to breathe normally and that can be a challenge for elderly people, people with existing breathing or heart conditions. So if anybody wanting to wear one these respirators, we really ask them to talk to their physician to get some advice.”
She says the N-95 will not fit a child’s face properly ” and they can’t be worn properly on those with facial hair so they are not effective in those situations, and they stop working when they get saturated with water, so again, we don’t recommend people use them.”
“The negative health effects, of breathing smoky air, this is a relatively short event so most of the health effects are exacerbations of people’s acute chronic health issues” says Dr. Henry “The best thing you can do is try to stay out of that air if at all possible or try to set up an area in your home where you can have clear air.”